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Africa’s low trade pattern worrisome

2023-03-28  Paheja Siririka

Africa’s low trade pattern worrisome

BEIJING - A low intra-continental, as well as global trade pattern by African countries, has been attributed to, among others, a lack of adequate infrastructure, climate change, structural problems, and lack of sovereignty or control of production. 

This is according to CEO of Development Reimagined, Hannah Ryder, who last week noted the African continent accounts for about 6% to 8% of global fossil fuel production, but only 2% of renewable energy production, yet the continent has the world’s largest renewable potential. 

“Development reimagined analysis in 2019 before Covid-19 found that on average, just 3% of all products imported by the G20 countries come from Africa. 29 African countries each export less than 1% of Africa’s total exports to the G20 and this includes countries that have significant industrial aspirations, such as Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Lesotho across the continent,” Ryder highlighted while addressing delegates during a seminar on promoting the development of Africa’s Industrial Chain and enhancing the added value of Africa products. 

She added: “Even Ethiopia, which is known for its work since 2012, to upgrade its manufacturing and export potential, including in partnership with China, accounted for less than 2% of Africa’s exports to the G20. Meanwhile, even a country like Egypt, with an abundance of high yields, high-quality agricultural goods, a strong manufacturing sector, high tech solutions and services imported more from the G20 than what it exported to the G20”. 

Founded by Ryder, Development Reimagined is a diverse and multilingual team of consultants with expertise in the fields of international development, diplomacy, environment and public relations, across all regions of the world. The institution is an African-led international development consultancy with headquarters in China, and offices in Kenya and the UK. 

Ryder acknowledged structural problems on the African continent and admitted that it takes action on all sides to conquer these challenges. 

Ryder stressed that Africa is lacking sovereignty or control over production, the kind of control that China has managed to ensure for essential commodities. “For instance, as another Development Reimagined report showed, every African country is currently a net importer of pharmaceutical products, and every one of these was a major problem of course when it came to Covid-19 vaccines. But this is the case also for other vaccines and medicines, such as for cholera,” she said. 

Ryder added that the African continent is a net exporter of fertiliser yet when the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, many African countries and the UN were concerned about fertiliser shortages, “but we have more fertiliser that we give to the rest of the world”. 

The director general of the department of African Affairs within the Chinese foreign affairs ministry, Wu Peng, said over the past 10 years, “promoting the development of Africa’s industrial chain and raising the added value of African products” has been the focus and strength of China-Africa cooperation. 

“Agenda 2063 of the African Union proposes to promote Africa’s economic transformation through industrialisation, raise the added value of African resources, and expand the share of the African manufacturing industry in the global value chain, which has been recognised as a strategic choice for Africa to achieve independent and sustainable development,” Peng stated. 

He assured: “China is committed to connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of African countries, and helping Africa translate its resource advantages into development advantages through industrialisation cooperation so as to achieve mutual benefit and common development”. 

China has invested more than US$120 billion in investment and financing cooperation with Africa to help African countries improve their infrastructure and consolidate the foundation for industrialisation. 

Said Peng: “The China-Africa Development Fund and the China-Africa Production Capacity Cooperation Fund have leveraged tens of billions of US dollars to invest in non-industrial and production capacity projects. China has also set up a China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, a “green channel” for African agricultural products to be exported to China, and actively carried out digital economic cooperation such as the “AfricanGoods Online Shopping Festival” to facilitate the entry of “Made in Africa” into the Chinese market”. Additional ventures are through government scholarships, “Luban workshops”, vocational education centres, agricultural technology demonstration centres and other means to help African countries cultivate high-quality indigenous talents. 

Malawi ambassador to China, Allan Joseph Chintedza, shared the difficulties of moving products across the continent due to existing tensions in some states. 

“It is so difficult to move goods within the African continent because of the borders,” he said, referring specifically to the situation in the DRC where Chinese nationals were recently killed. 

Chitendza added: “Reports show that it takes long just to cross from one border in one country to another, but internally within our countries, it’s equally difficult. These are the things that are delaying access to the market and the development of our own local supply chains”. 

He feels the thinking and know-how of the Chinese should be used to propel partnerships to higher grounds. 

“The higher ground tells us that China has invested in research and development. A big part of our African budget does not get invested in research and innovation. So how do we innovate if we do not invest in research and development?” he pondered. 


2023-03-28  Paheja Siririka

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